Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Artist Profile: Jayasinhji "Bapa" Jhala

The Brain Constructing the World
A collaboration between Serendip and Painted Bride Art Center,
associated with the Synesthesia exhibit, April 3rd - May 16th 2009


Jayasinhji "Bapa" Jhala


Angma, the Pujari of the Cosmos


It is a bright clear morning in January. Gerry Street sparkles as light streams in through all the windows. The house is quiet and happy, white walls with bright paintings, narratives of our homes in Dhrangadhra and Rangamati. Other stories speak from the walls, stories of Rajput princesses and warriors, Liluye’s sharp portraits and glass sculptures occupy this space with vases of pink tulips,blue lupens and yellow fragrant lilies without crowding. The carpets soften Angma’s footsteps as she comes before the puja shrine and sits down before it on a gold and red brocade cushion.

She opens the doors and lights a simple silver lamp. She looks upon the pantheon of dieties then closes her eyes and sits. The deities look upon her. There are many dieties and ancestors before her. In the middle and closeup are two little statues of Banke Bihari and Radha that she bought in the perfumed streets of Brindaban a few days ago. Banke Bihari is black in gold robes and his Radha is golden in red. I sit and watch my daughter at worship.

Time goes by. I see my Angma’s face glisten in the light and the lamp flame plays across her face. Imperceptibly the statues of Krishna and Radha begin to glow. This glow radiates, the glow envelopes Angma. She begins to glow. She appears to grow . Her posture becomes straight, her head tilts back, her eys open and focus beyond the walls of the room. It is a heroic pose, confidence radiating outwards in light.

Irridescence of rainbows encircle her as the walls dissolve. There is no house, nor is there the outside of wind, cold, earth, trees and sky. Instead there is a new space, a cosmic space, in which everything floats in secure certitude. The nautilus shell that Richard gave is the effulgent sun in the east, the floating antler that Elizabeth picked up near Pack mountain is now the cresent moon in the south. The carpets expand and rush to the horizons. The Tibetan rug releases alpine Himalayan blossoms of yellow and blue , that sway. The Persian carpet’s flowers explode in organised riots of color and scent. Water gardens, perfumed gardens, gardens where leafing, budding, flowering and wilting all play with a delicious and delicate exuberance. The paintings detached from the walls have become gigantic screens and floated away to take up positions at all points of the compass. They hover above and below and on the horizonless orb. The once frozen figures in the paintings, are mobile, playing out the scenes in a slow motion celestial pantomine. The mad elephant rushes at the three princes and the goddess looks on. The Budha sits under the hornbill tree careless of the shuttle cock that is flying from Renny to Johnny Da, while my mother-in-law reads, Aroti weaves and Buri combs Rakhi’s hair. Long strong stokes through the black lusterous hair that glints in the tropical sun in which the red footed crab blazes.

The yellow love-bird nuzzles Liluye’s neck as she looks on intently, piercingly alive in the magic. Ducks fly calmy in the sky above, while galloping princesses below ready their hawks on their delicate porcelean wrists, their jewels and their bright clothes flying.

These domestic views of extended experience, lifting and flying recede, to be replaced by great washes of light, accompanied by the tremulous music of bells of rain drops in waves of expanse, rippling, racing, curling and racing still. In this immensity turbulance accentuates calm. Majesty plays, majesty is dancing.

How long did this last? I do not know.

My daughter closes her eyes. The great worship is over. The cosmos is again immense and remote and I am again the little speck, a human father of the magician. The world of Gerry Street returns to its everyday quiet. Angma folds her hands to the gods, she bows to the divine players. She closes the doors of the puja and rises to make us a cup of tea.


From the Wingspan of the Eastern Horizon

From the wingspan of the eastern horizon,
from the curving edges of the north and south, it came.
This luminous light of red and gold, brilliant and mesmerizing, it swept towards me and my heart was enthralled.

My heart was duped by the sheer wonder of it,
Its inescapability of light power engulfing, encompassing.
Penetrating with a warmth that had a hook,
a hook of doubt, within the splendorous bath of light.

It swept overhead majestically, from eastern horizon to western horizon
while the sun stopped to watch its gradual progress in the white sky above.

Its march measured the days it took for the partridge eggs to hatch,
and it was gone the day the partridge covey broke their shells
and entered into experience.

This wave of luminescence has not left me.
Its edge has not dulled by remembering.
Thinking back
It was stony shinny hard, an unforgiving stupefying invasive presence,
A light doubt filled with the saliva of a corrosive doom that reappears unexpectedly, without warning, anytime.
In the laughter of my wife, the laughter of my daughters, in the voices of my brothers and in the gestures of my friends.
Premonition of gloom that reminds, robs the embrace of its warmth, the smile of its pleasure and the certitude of being of its foundation.
It is not a fear but an unease that is pervasive
That is pervading
Radiating from the center of moments of contentment.



Artist profile

Bapa, Jayasinhji Jhala is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Temple University. He is an ethnographic filmmaker and an experimental filmmaker working on "video moments" that makes the mundane tangential. Trained as a gemnologist, Bapa designs jewels by setting gem stones into jade, quartz, and shell materials. He assembles mobile sculptures called "Breathings" that are composed of feathers, quills, shells, seeds, gemstones and other organic and found materials. On commutes in the air or on the road Bapa writes short accidental stories entitled, "Stories between thoughts", where projection and injection of location and historical time on the ethnographic moment attempts to go "somewhere not here".



Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
3 + 4 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.